From Vienna we took a holiday-within-a-holiday and spent a night in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, as Randi’s parents had enjoyed their visit earlier this year and it looked easy enough to get to. I didn’t really appreciate how easy it would be… the train from Vienna leaves every hour, takes an hour, and costs a mere €10.10 each way. Tickets can be purchased at any time from a mobile app, and of course there are no security queues or passport checks at any point. It does not surprise me to learn that commuting from Bratislava to Vienna is quite common. (I know that this is the normal train experience across Europe. It’s just so great.)
You can’t visit any city (except Toledo, Ohio) without taking a walking tour, so we wrapped up warm for a chilly three-hour history of the Communist era with our guide and two guys from Singapore. (“What is the weather like in Singapore?” “It’s always nice.” “What about in winter?” “There is no winter.”) Despite the cold it was a really interesting walk, including the views of Austria and Hungary from Bratislava Castle. It does seem that every postwar government was prone to inappropriate road-building schemes, whatever their ideology. At least Bratislava got a UFO-shaped restaurant perched on top of a bridge in return, although the authorities had to put up blinds on one side to block out the views of capitalist Austria during the Cold War.
At night we enjoyed the spectacular Christmas market in the centre of town, which was even better (and less crowded) than Vienna’s. The most common food was lokša (known via Catherine as lefse) of which I particularly enjoyed the blue cheese and chocolate options. Meanwhile, Randi was thrilled to discover that the ‘meat and cabbage soup’ meal handed down through her family existed here as kapustnica.
I highly recommend a visit to Bratislava!